Thursday, March 30, 2006

Economic Disparities

Depending on which set of numbers you choose (see the above link or this) , I want to simply compare teacher raises to the general population as an exercise in fiscal reality.

In Region 19, teachers are (and have been) receiving increases on the order of 4.5%. So I used this calculator to figure out a componded interest figure that spans 4 yrs, a sample income of $50K calculated against a 4.5 rate.

The result is that over four years $50K grows as an income to $59,860.20. That's for teachers and staff in Region 19. And that rate continues for a long time.

Using the 1.6 figure from the Washington Post article, $50K grows to $53,304.55. That's for the average family in America. If we use, the conservative Wall St Juornal estimate of -(minus).5%, a family earning $50K four years ago, now earns $49009.93.

The benefits likewise increased for teachers, janitors, and so on in Region 19.

For families who are not on a government payroll, if they haven't lost most benefits their deductables have grown significantly.

When I mention this at Board meetings I'm told CEOs make a killing as well.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The bill to have the State pay its fair share of special education expenses drew little or no interest.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The first develop last

Here's a nice article about intelligence. One has to wonder what NCLB inspired, test memorization indoctrinatiuon does to this development cycle.

Brainy kids' brains develop slowly - CNN

Wednesday, March 29, 2006; Posted: 3:05 p.m. EST (20:05 GMT)

The brain's outer mantle, or cortex, gets thicker and then thins during childhood and the teen years. The study found that in kids with superior intelligence, the cortex reaches its thickest stage a few years later than in other children.

Nobody knows what causes that or how it relates to superior intelligence. But researchers said the finding does not rule out a role for environment -- such as intellectual stimulation -- in affecting a child's level of intelligence.

In fact, the brain's delay in thickening may promote higher intelligence because it means a child is older and processing more complex experiences while the cortex is building up, said study co-author Dr. Judith Rapoport.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Effective School Board Characteristics

The George Lucas Educational Foundation has published a very nice article outlining The Five Characteristics of Effective School Boards by Arthur Griffin, Jr. and Carter D. Ward.

Since we are in the middle of budget season, here's two of their observations:

Effective Boards Allocate Resources to Needs
Not all students walk through the school doors with the same needs. Good school boards recognize this fact and allocate resources such as time, money, and personnel and adjust practices accordingly. Documents of the school district, such as the annual budget, are viewed as tools to reach student-learning priorities, and the district's spending and practices do not protect sacred cows.

Effective Boards Watch the Return on Investment

We are all accountable to somebody. Effective school boards are mindful of their own accountability to the communities that entrust their children to public schools; effective boards routinely and regularly measure and report the return on investment of the education dollars they spend. Effective policy makers today make their greatest gains by asking appropriate questions, and productive boards recognize the self-instructive value in making the following query an ongoing refrain: What services are we providing to which students at what cost and resulting in what benefits?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Gap

Connecticut educators have tried everything to disguise, hide from sight, and avoid dealing with the so-called gap in education. That is, the perennial reminder that inner city schools are exercises in futility. There are a myriad of reasons for this and CT isn't the only state dealing with the issue.

Of course, NCLB is the thinly disguised canard intended to hide this disgrace. Don't bother looking behind that wall of deceit, nobody there but an army of propagandists, theocrats, and neo-lunatics running America as though it were an insane asylum to be toyed with.

PBS is running a series within the Newshour program tracking an inner city school "turnaround specialist". Last time I watched, he was having a very bad time of it. Very bad.

I should remind you that in the last presidential vote nowhere was the vote bluer than the urban centers of this country. For most of my life, I've cared deeply about social justice, human rights, and the civil rights movement.

It has not escaped my attention that education has become a blunt instrument of racism against black men in particular. The Gap I mention in the title of this post was brought to my attention of a co-worker. He sent me a link "For your blog". The artcle, Doubts spread about effectiveness of drug-free school zone laws, March 23, 2006, Associated Press, talks about the obvious consequences of drug-free zoning laws that ratcheted up the punishments for drug offenders caught within school radiuses.

At recent meetings, activists with Connecticut's A Better Way Foundation - which supports the bill - have displayed maps of major cities showing huge sections designated as drug-free zones. A map of New Haven indicated that Yale University's golf course was the only large part of the city not encompassed in one of the overlapping zones.

Most states have drug-free-zone laws; they often entail mandatory prison terms that preclude such options as probation or treatment.

Lolita Buckner Inniss, a Cleveland State University law professor, is a vocal critic of the laws. Her research found that drug dealers in inner cities and compact rural towns were disproportionately likely to incur the extra penalties, in contrast to dealers in suburbs where zones covered relatively small portions of the communities. That urban-suburban split has the effect of making minorities more likely to bear the brunt of tougher sentencing rules, she said.

"I've been dissatisfied by how the public mutely accepts these laws," she said.

Though intended to deter drug sales to youths, the laws have been applied mostly to adult-to-adult transactions, according to the Justice Policy Institute, a private research group advocating alternatives to prison.

It cited a study by William Brownsberger, a former Massachusetts assistant attorney general who reviewed 443 drug cases in three cities. He found that 80 percent of the cases occurred in drug-free school zones, but only 1 percent involved sales to minors.

"The laws have an undeniable appeal - nobody wants drugs near schools," Brownsberger said in a telephone interview. "But the evidence suggests they're not effective in moving drug dealing away from schools. If every place is a stay-away zone, no place is a stay-away zone."


The adults in question are almost always black men. Yes, this is unfair and expensive and unworthy of America, yada yada yada...

But there's more to this. Another article, 'Marriage Is for White People' by Joy Jones, Sunday, March 26, 2006; this time from the Washington Post tells us about the new social units called families.

"If Jesus Christ bought me an engagement ring, I wouldn't take it," a separated thirty-something friend told me. "I'd tell Jesus we could date, but we couldn't marry."

And here's the new twist. African American women aren't the only ones deciding that they can make do alone. Often what happens in black America is a sign of what the rest of America can eventually expect. In his 2003 book, "Mismatch: The Growing Gulf between Women and Men," Andrew Hacker noted that the structure of white families is evolving in the direction of that of black families of the 1960s. In 1960, 67 percent of black families were headed by a husband and wife, compared to 90.9 percent for whites. By 2000, the figure for white families had dropped to 79.8 percent. Births to unwed white mothers were 22.5 percent in 2001, compared to 2.3 percent in 1960. So my student who thought marriage is for white people may have to rethink that in the future.


And yet we have educators and politicians who think school accountability can be acheived by administering high-stakes factoid testing to be sure every student is homogenous within a grade level.

The gaps in the administration of justice, an understanding of the social fabric of this country, the disconnect between religious dogma and religious practice, and so on are minor gaps in America.

The biggest gap exists between the ears of our tone-deaf politicians, educators, and citizenry who have forgotten how to think critically, act responsibly, and vote independently. What we are doing to the black men of this country is the most mortal sin in a deep and wide cesspool of recent all-time historical lows.

Oh, I've already been told that this has nothing to do with region 19, it's somebody else's problem.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Betty Sternberg on pointless NCLB testing

In an editorial called, More Required Tests Won't Solve Education Problems - March 24, 2006 by Betty J. Sternberg much of the growing criticism we read about everywhere is confirmed.

In Connecticut this month, more than 300,000 students are wrestling with about 12.6 million test pages and roughly 63 million questions.

What will this massive testing tell us that we don't already know? Nothing.

In general, wealthier students do better than poorer students, non-minority students do better than minority students, students without disabilities do better than students with disabilities, and there are significant gaps among urban, suburban and rural students.
This is precisely the point. These tests do nothing but confirm what we already know about test results - they are perfectly predictable. Yet every year the newspapers run test comparisons as though the results will somehow change.

"Gee, maybe Hartford scored higher than Greenwich this year." Somehow pigs are more likely to sprout wings and fly. Nobody is remotely surprised by the results and it is pure buffoonery to think this stuff has educational meaning.

The pretense of fairness, the very idea that America is the Land of Opportunity is mocked by such "tests". More foolishly (if it's possible), the idiot bureaucrats in Washington would have us believe that the summary of results somehow makes schools "accountable" just because "We Test therefore, um, We Pass and Fail, and, uh, if you fail....". This mind-numbing stupidity is how our schools are judged.

Sternberg is right of course, rich schools always pass, poor schools always fail so why do we punish the brave souls who do their best teaching or administrating in poor districts? To be shocked by this well-worn reality would indicate mental-illness on the observer's part - WE KNOW THIS ALREADY. And these tests are not for the good of the kids or the school. This is the Bush administration's way of destroying the public school system.

Why is anyone playing this game?

Sternberg continues...

Less, but better testing - testing that works to improve student achievement, not just record it - would allow us to focus on closing the unacceptably large differences in skills among subgroups of children.

NCLB, with its heavy emphasis on academic achievement measured by annual tests alone, will have our nation's children meeting minimal targets and busily answering those 5.8 billion multiple-choice questions.

This law does little to create an academically astute, responsible, caring, compassionate and wise citizenry.
Wow, I'm proud of this woman. Yes, that's what concerned citizens everywhere think.

Nobody is against testing as a tool to measure individual progress - that makes sense assuming the results are used to help the student learn and grow as an individual. NCLB, on the other hand, uses the results to enforce conformity, guarantee mediocrity, and brutally and unfairly beat up well-intentioned school districts.

The State needs to continue to fight NCLB. Parents need to pressure Congress to repeal it. Lawyers need to fight its Constitutionality.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Wooooooooooooo Hoooooooooooooo!

A rumor circulating through Ashford at this evening's Board of Finance meeting was that two CT State Senators will be introducing a Bill on Monday that legislates that the State of CT will reimburse school districts 100% of the cost of special education expenses!

Every man, woman, and child needs to show up in Hartford on Monday to support these brave souls. There is no single piece of legislation that would more relieve taxpayers than this.

I'll update this post as soon as more information becomes available.

UPDATE: Here's the skinny:

HB No. 5842, entitled "AN ACT LOWERING PROPERTY TAXES THROUGH STATE
ASSUMPTION OF MUNICIPAL LIABILITIES," was recently introduced by the
Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee. In essence, it requires the state
to cover 100 percent of the special education costs in the state as well as
cover most health insurance costs for municipal employees. A hearing on the
bill is scheduled for Monday. To access information on the bill, go to
http://www.cga.ct.gov/ and enter 5842 in the "Quick Search" option at the
top of the page.


Thanks to Dave Polsky

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

If it's community property, it must be mine

Many years ago, I used to pick up my wife for dinner after work. She worked at a Handicapped Workshop in Rockville.

One day we pulled up after hours so she could pick up her car and a woman was emptying a van full of garbage in the Workshop's dumpster. "Hey, lady, what are you doing? I said, "That dumpster is for the Workshop only."

She turned and said, "I PAY TAXES FOR THIS! It's COMMUNITY PROPERTY!" She finished dumping her garbage and left. She had no right in the world to add expense to the Workshop's garbage removal bills but she, like far too many people, think that paying taxes is a license to pillage community trusts.

At school budget time the schools are trying to make nickels scream by hanging on to every one they can allocate, schools have to balance the books and beg taxpayers to pass enough money FOR KID EXPENSES. One way to help the schools is to let them manage their resources responsibly and leave NON-KID EXPENSES off the table.

Off hours use of school facilities is an extraordinary expense and needs to be properly accounted and responsibly supervised. Adding non-educational expenses to the school budget makes taxpayers scream thinking the schools are out of control.

The town of Ashford should no more let the middle school resources and facilities be offered to the community for free than let the Ashford Fire Engines be used to water private lawns for free in off peak hours. Both notions are absurd at face value.

The school can be made available off-hours, inexpensively and responsibly by observing good accounting procedures. That way nobody gets taken advantage of. And that means everybody pays something to use the school resources. For community use, funds can be cleanly allocated elsewhere.

Otherwise, let's just merge the budgets back together.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Why Mom and Pop can't afford Education

As I look at "fixed" raises built into teacher's and non-certified personnel's contracts, I can't help but think the guaranteed raises are a thing of the past. This may be the last generation of teachers to ever see such generous increases in their lifetimes.

Here's what the rest of America is suffering from already (from the Washington Post);

Will Your Job Survive?

By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, March 22, 2006; Page A21


The threat of globalization and the reality of de-unionization have combined to make the raise, for most Americans, a thing of the past. Between 2001 and 2004, median household income inched up by a meager 1.6 percent, even as productivity was expanding at a robust 11.7 percent. The broadly shared prosperity that characterized our economy in the three decades following World War II is now dead as a dodo.

Also dying, if not yet also kaput, is the comforting notion that a good education is the best defense against the ravages of globalization -- or, as Bill Clinton famously put it: What you earn is the result of what you learn. A study last year by economists J. Bradford Jensen of the Institute for International Economics and Lori Kletzer of the University of California at Santa Cruz demonstrates that it's the more highly skilled service-sector workers who are likely to have tradable jobs. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the proportion of jobs in the United States that require a college degree will rise by a measly one percentage point -- from 26.9 percent in 2002 to 27.9 percent in 2012 -- during this decade.

Since education as such won't save us, Blinder recommends a kind of particularized vocational ed. We will have to specialize more, he writes, "in the delivery of services where personal presence is either imperative or highly beneficial. Thus, the U.S. workforce of the future will likely have more divorce lawyers and fewer attorneys who write routine contracts." Now, there's a prospect to galvanize a nation.

My own sense (which I develop at greater length in the April issue of the American Prospect) is that nothing short of a radical reordering of our economy will suffice if we're to save our beleaguered middle-class majority. Every other advanced economy -- certainly, those of the Europeans and the Japanese -- has a conscious strategy to keep its most highly skilled jobs at home. We have none; American capitalism, dominated by our financial sector, is uniquely wedded to disaggregating companies, thwarting unionization campaigns and offshoring work in a ceaseless campaign to impress investors that it has found the cheapest labor imaginable.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Legislating Deadly Education

American education is being strangled by bad education law. These laws, often sugar-coated with magnanimous sounding titles, do far more damage to society than anyone can dream.

AREN'T I GOOD? I WILL NOT LEAVE ONE CHILD BEHIND! I MUST BE GOOD.

The most mean-spirited monsters America has ever created hold the levers of power these days. They win elections by convincing their all too eager followers that kids are lazy, distracted, stupid, and unworthy of promotion through the school system. Their sneering animous for teachers, schools, and children rewards them richly with re-election time after time.

You are all supposed to believe that children aren't working hard enough. Oh, and parents are too lazy to control their kids or spend enough time with them or... And kids disrespect authority - they can't read or write or remember everything Conservative Holy Seers like William Bennett DEMAND they know. "Don't know it yet - we have time - we'll repeat it and repeat it and repeat it... YOU MUST KNOW THIS BECAUSE I KNOW THIS"

Oh, yes. These kids need testing till their eyes bleed and their fingers blister. It's all for the good brothers and sisters.

Let's be sure that the CMTs punish all kids not passing and any schools who pass too few. Let's just PUNISH EVERY childhood educational thing we can - it is all corrupt (unlike the Carlyle Group or Halliburton).

Yes, all this testing is for our own good. Where are you if you aren't an absolute clone of the student sitting next to you? We wouldn't want anyone to be different because that would mean SOMEBODY'S exercising illegal individuality!

Forget what you read in the NYTimes. Things like;

Plight Deepens for Black Men, Studies Warn
By ERIK ECKHOLM
Published: March 20, 2006

In response to the worsening situation for young black men, a growing number of programs are placing as much importance on teaching life skills — like parenting, conflict resolution and character building — as they are on teaching job skills.

These were among the recent findings:

The share of young black men without jobs has climbed relentlessly, with only a slight pause during the economic peak of the late 1990's. In 2000, 65 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20's were jobless — that is, unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated. By 2004, the share had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of white and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts. Even when high school graduates were included, half of black men in their 20's were jobless in 2004, up from 46 percent in 2000.

Incarceration rates climbed in the 1990's and reached historic highs in the past few years. In 1995, 16 percent of black men in their 20's who did not attend college were in jail or prison; by 2004, 21 percent were incarcerated. By their mid-30's, 6 in 10 black men who had dropped out of school had spent time in prison.

In the inner cities, more than half of all black men do not finish high school.


The tangle of legislation, the mind-numbing emphasis on high-stakes testing, and the neo-nazi enthusiasm for educational conformity to the Bush oligarchy and Orwellian "accountability" practices is paralyzing schools. We can no longer provide even second-world standards of education to our kids. And curriculums are near impossible to change for the better.

In Ashford, school computers are TEN YEARS OLD. In technological terms, we are three generations of technology removed from yesterday. The school owns one smartboard.

EOSmith, similarly, offers far too many programs that beg and cookie-sale their way through the school year. The school needs a new curriculum, up-to-date technology (smartboards, iPOD server, teacher training, curriculum development finances, freedom from idiot-driven legislation, the right to experiment to improve education for our kids no matter what NCLB says, and so on). We need the ability to develop programs tha that inner city students can plug into. We need regional programs that would currently violate even more idiot laws. We need to free ourselves of Texas education and get back to Yankee ingenuity. We need some Hartford insurance companies to sponsor Chinese teachers with insurance and cost-of-living so that the schools and businesses here can learn together.

Connecticut has some of the very poorest cities in the country and we live in a state hell-bent on not graduating our students, not creating alternative prohgrams, not trusting teachers, not promoting individuality, not thinking independently, not exercising its federal autonomy - in short, kissing Bush's ass rather than treating education as a sacred trust. That has got to change.

We don't need one more day of right-wing propaganda about schools, kids, or teachers. Not one. We need relief from bad law, we need federal funding and state funding and we need a moritorium on media jackasses who freely bash our kids, parents, and schools without a fight.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

CABE's Big Adventure - Republicans RAISE your local taxes

Representatives from the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) recently went to Washington, D.C. Their newsletter says they attended the National School Boards Association's Federal Relations Network Conference and then met with Connecticut's Congressional delegation.

Cabe's newsletter lists the failures of the federal government to fund their chronic spending without paying habits. For the past thirty years (approximately how long the Republicans have controlled, um, government), the federal government has simply not paid the 40% of special education costs accrued for legislation initiatives they passed.

Fuel, transoportation, and lots of other pricey items needing financial relief were discussed as well.

So the Congressional "staff" went into action and on the last day tthat the school boards were in Washington they were rewarded with the fruits of their labor, the president's budget, "not only fails to meet these needs, but contains the largest cut to federal education funding in the 26 year history of the Department of Education: $2.1 Billion. If enacted, this would be a 3.8 percent cut from the FT06 level."!!!!!

Oh, the cuts don't stop there either, CABE lists another $28.95 BILLION in education shortfalls and cuts. The upside is a $225 Million increase in neo-con sinkholes.

So how much is a $30 BILLION ADDITIONAL SHORTFALL in federal education funding? Um, about 3 months of spending in Iraq. Come to think of it, read the article and the increase in military spending in Iraq is almost exactly the dollar amount being taken from education! Put that on Sesame Street, Count Dracula!

But it doesn't stop there - no sir - these are the Bush years - if the ship is sinking then it's time to start drilling holes to let the water out.

On page 2 of the CABE Journal, president Robert Hale offers a Commentary on the CABE Meetings in Washington. In it he tap dances around the uncomfortable fact that, well, "For the most part our senators and representatives are responsive"... but... "somewhere out there are local board memberswho know their individual senator and/or congressman. We need to know who you are..."

Let me translate this into English. About a year ago, a union representative told me a story about trying to meet a legislator in Washington. He said that after days of being treated like short shrift his delegation finally pin-pointed the representative. They approached the staff about getting the promised meeting because they knew the congressperson was in.

The staff relented, "Step right this way.", into a small conference room. My friend who trailed the union delegation had not yet turned the corner to join his group when he watched the legislatior slip out a side door and RUN down the hall away from the citizens. They wound up meeting with the Congressional Skippy's who serve coffee smile and treat you like a mentally ill patient looking for directions to the Lincoln Memorial.

Somehow CABE and all the other BOEs got snookered. Hale can put as much lipstick on Rob Simmons, Joe Lieberman and others as he likes but what these so-called representatives are doing ain't pretty.

At the local levels we struggle to pay for all this. If we continue to be dumb enough to empower these bastards in Washington we deserve what we get - higher taxes from Washington disguised as tax relief.

Rather than beg strangers for access to our officials I have a better idea. Let's ask Attorney General Blumenthal issue a warrant for their arrest for child neglect - that's right a class action warrant for neglecting the children of Connecticut. And the only bail that will spring them is a face-to-face meeting with every BOE in the State of CT. I want to tell them a few things using a bullhorn.

But it seems to me that every CT politician who even thinks about voting on education legislation needs to have the common sense of calling the President of CABE and the President of the Teachers Union well in advance of voting on anything that affects children. For CABE to be begging for spam access to government officials is a humiliating admission that government has gone wrong in a big way.

Friday, March 17, 2006

CMTs are not essential

In today's Courant, Rick Green argues that Connecticut Mastery Tests (CMTs) are essential measures. I disagree. Here's why.

Rick Green argues that Andy Dousis, an Essex BOE member, a Marine Corps veteran, and championship high school football coach sets a bad example by refusing to have his daughter take the CMTs.

But Dousis, 42, isn't merely a parent. He's a member of the East Lyme Board of Education and sworn to uphold the law. Mastery tests are required by law.

"The message I want sent is everybody should think on their own," said Dousis, a former third-grade teacher now working as an education consultant. "Join our democracy and educate yourself about the test and make the decision that is best for your family."

Green even calls one of Bush's supporters.

But because Dousis is a guy who made me think, I called one of the architects behind Bush's No Child Left Behind initiative to ask him whether things have spun out of control.

"I don't think there is any data that assessments at the third grade harms anyone," said G. Reid Lyon, now working for Whitney University in Texas. Public officials such as Dousis are sending a dangerous message, he said.

Lyon has spent a career helping schools do a better job teaching children to read. Part of the answer lies in testing at a young age, as well as providing the training for teachers so they can do a better job.

"If a test is assessing reading and math and other content areas, it is assessing what kids have to know," Lyon said. "You have to be able to measure individuals against standards."

Dousis told me he's not against all testing, just what the CMTs have become.

I like Dousis' spunky willingness to take on the system. I can think of plenty of flaws with all this testing. But if his viewpoint prevailed, would we ever know that 66 percent of fourth graders reached reading goals in East Lyme - and less than 15 percent in Hartford did?


IMO, Dousis is doing the right thing for his daughter. The taking of high-stress, inappropriately used, government dictated tests does the child no good. Tests more suited to the child's school and educational progress make more sense. If she's tested here, let's get her to there. And there may not be where a bureaucrat wants her to be - yea, pursuit of happiness - following one's bliss - character - individuality!

NCLB is second only to the Iraq War as a fraudulently promoted bill of -cough- "goods".


Dr. Lyon has made a career of asserting that kids can't read because they are mistaught in the time between pre-schoool and third or fourth grade. This nicely folds into the Bush administration's anti-teacher union policy that dominates educational policy everywhere. As a dispassionate observer of Dr. Lyon's claims, I suspect the data indicating continued failing readers from fourth grade up is being used as a sufficiently credible scientific prop to add credibility that his reading theories are oh, so much better than others'.


Dr. Lyon's selling points are that Learning Disabled (LD) students are little more than poor readers who teachers and parents are conspiring to get special education services for. This costs money that could be better spent giving billionaires tax breaks. In fact, Dr. Lyon's duplicitous proponents contend that his reading program will cure the ills of the racial achievement gaps.


Dr. Lyon now works for the Best corporation (Whitney International University System) who see this education *industry* as "huge, with the U.S. spending more than $700 billion annually." You need not ask what schools will be buying.


So what's so dangerous about Mr. Dousis's message? Maybe that CMT's are harmful to kids, schools, parents, and tax-payers. Dr. Lyons own writings clearly show that older, poor readers make very little progress in later grades. Yet CMTs brutally punish these students.

Can Children With Reading Problems Overcome Their Difficulties?

Yes, the majority of children who enter kindergarten and elementary school at-risk for reading failure can learn to read at average or above levels, but only if they are identified early and provided with systematic, explicit, and intensive instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension strategies. Substantial research supported by NICHD and OERI shows clearly that without systematic, focused, and intensive interventions, the majority of children rarely "catch up".


Oh, and let's not forget the corruption of the education system. Read about Virginia's cheating here. Minorities are being duped by these testing schemes.

To answer Green's question, we have always known inner city schools are a challenge. Do you really think a CMT will fix it?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Magnetic Semantics, show me the money...

From this Courant article it sounds as though a Hartford Magnet school may have altered the racial characteristic of selected students to comply with State racial balance regulations. The big argument is whether or not parents were notified.

It brings up a very interesting argument though. What the hell is race? This administrator seems to think its close hues of pale skin colors. This is really so weird I don't know what to make of it. Is race a conscious choice? Do you have to be 21 to decide? In that case, I not sure what I want to be.


Students' Racial Identities Altered
Magnet Principal Tried To Remedy Imbalance
March 15, 2006
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB, Courant Staff Writer

Fifteen-year-old sophomore Dylan Doughty remembered a similar conversation with Lavoie, who has moved out of state since retiring and could not be reached for comment. "She said they need some-odd kids to be white so the school can still operate. So I was thinking my skin color is white so I may as well be white. This is how I recall it."

The parents of both students say they were not consulted - although Brandon said Genao assured him otherwise. "I said, `Did you call my father?' He said, `Yes.' Then he started typing something in the computer," Brandon said. "I didn't really want it to be changed. I would like to be African American."

Brandon's father, Rufus Gartrell, said that he wasn't aware of the change until this week and that no one from the school called him to ask permission. Had anyone called, he said, he never would have agreed to the change.

"I think I would remember something like that," Rufus Gartrell said. "I never talked to Brandon about it. My son, he could pass for white, but I've taught my son he's also black. I've taught him to be proud of what he is."

Dylan's mother, Jerilyn Fabiani, also objected to the change. "He's not of legal age and they shouldn't have been asking him," she said. "It's not his decision to make at this point in his life."

Monday, March 13, 2006

The educated get poorer

In this article we find increasing evidence that educated individuals are valued less and less in America.
I happen to believe that is worrisome in dozens of ways. It also dispells the myth that education is failing to supply big business qualified people.
Big business is, in fact, fleecing college educated people. Read on...

The Poor Get Richer
Blue-collar workers are making salary gains -- but don't cheer yet.
Fortune Magazine
By Geoffrey Colvin, FORTUNE senior editor-at-large
March 13, 2006: 10:13 AM EST

"The real annual earnings of college graduates actually declined 5.2 percent, while those of high school graduates, strangely enough, rose 1.6 percent.

That is so contrary to the conventional view of this major economic trend that it demands explanation. One possibility is that it's just a blip. Could be, but remember that 2004, when the readings started going haywire, was a year of strong economic growth, low unemployment, and rising productivity, offering no obvious reason to expect weird results.

The other main possibility is that something unexpected and fundamental is changing in the way the U.S. economy rewards education. We don't yet have complete data, but anyone with his eyes open can see obvious possibilities. Just maybe the jobs most threatened by outsourcing are no longer those of factory workers with a high school education, as they have been for decades, but those of college-educated desk workers.

Perhaps so many lower-skilled jobs have now left the U.S.--or have been created elsewhere to begin with--that today's high school grads are left doing jobs that cannot be easily outsourced--driving trucks, stocking shelves, building houses, and the like. So their pay is holding up.

College graduates, by contrast, look more outsourceable by the day. New studies from the Kauffman Foundation and Duke University show companies massively shifting high-skilled work--research, development, engineering, even corporate finance--from the U.S. to low-cost countries like India and China. That trend sits like an anvil on the pay of many U.S. college grads.

We need more evidence before concluding that we're at a major turning point in the value of education to American workers. But it certainly feels like one, based on what we can observe. Higher education still confers an enormous economic advantage. Just not as enormous as it used to be.

As for income inequality, pretty much everyone has always hated it, and its growth was a certain cue for handwringing and brow furrowing. Well, it's not growing anymore. Because our best-educated workers are earning less, and the incentives for higher education may thus be declining, the result could be a more uniform--and lower--standard of living. Be careful what you wish for."

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Washington's neo-Molochs

Human beings have an inalienable right to invent themselves; when that right is pre-empted it is called brain-washing.
- Germaine Greer

The freedom to share one’s insights and judgments verbally or in writing is, just like the freedom to think, a holy and inalienable right of humanity that, as a universal human right, is above all the rights of princes.
- Carl Friedrich Bahrdt

Education in America has become an exercise in political indoctrination. The Orwellian, pretzel-logic of slogans such as "No Child Left Behind" mask much darker political agendas. America has turned schools into torture chambers - cabinets for the Dr. Caligari's of the political right to experiment on our children as though they were nothing more than lab rats.

Would any adult submit themselves to an employer who regularly raised the bar on their production or efforts? Or maybe the employer is unsatisfied with your last review - you'll need to be watched and cajoled and given special attention. Yes, we have ways of dealing with you - all in the name of goodness.

Why do our military come back time and time again for hundreds of billions of funding to 'win' wars that don't exist? The bar for them is never raised. Congress never says, "We expect more with less!" No, that's not what happens.

Has corruption, mismanagement, and ubiquitous political sleaze drained last year's budget? Poor things. Here's another half trillion to tide you over until you get it right.

Meanwhile, to our schools...

I attend school board budget meetings that would make any caring citizen cry. The schools fall further and further behind technologically, educationally, and psychologically. Nowhere are state or fedreral tax dollars to be found for the sake of our children - Alaska needs another sleazy tax windfall. And Rob Simmons is all for GOOD THINGS - "You go, eastern Connecticut! I'm [RIGHT] behind you! [except when the vote counts]"

How can schools improve education when there is no desire to improve education. The LAW MANDATES UBIQUITOUS, WORTHLESS, TESTING and failure to comply, to pass, to coerce, to deface each student into a uniform widget may cost administrators, teachers, others their jobs.

And it is all a FOOL's errand. Wealthy communities always are nearly perfect, less wealthy communities are always on the cusp, poor communities are always on a treadmill to catch-up. This is worse than a wasteland. This is factory of broken souls. A treadmill for school officials and teachers commanded to give Sysiphus a coffee break.

The wealthy communities believe their children are perfect, that their schools are the best, that their Stepford Lives are predictably predictable and eternally right.

The less wealthy are in constant stress and distress. Here a circular firing squad of elderly voters, parents, administrators, budget committees, political hacks, malicious lunatics, petty tyrants, and interested parties, good-willed citizens, anti-tax lobbyists, retro-luddites, and a cacophony of citizens holding their bags of broken political promises apply lipstick to a starving pig and pass it off as a healthy speciment. And in their spare time they wound each other with friendly fire.

Worse, in the urban centers, where children are shot at in their daily lives, minorities plead with their children to conform - don't make noise, sit up, don't make the oligarchy mad, pretend you don't exist and maybe, just maybe, we'll get through this day. The dementia of relentless violence and hard drugs precludes education. This is social triage that is ineffective and politcally unconscionable.

Children have inalienable selves [rights to become] to whom inalienable political rights are systematically being ripped away without the benefit of an anesthesia. "Kindness" and "mercy" are words long absent from the religious vernaculars that have delivered us TO this evil state of affairs.

When do we rid ourselves of this criminal legislation and begin to reclaim our children as unique individuals, schools as places to learn as best students can learn?

When?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Frank Moss on educational futures...

Frank Moss, an entrepreneur and former CEO of Tivoli Systems, was named head of MIT's Media Lab in February. Here's a sample of what he says about education;

MARCH 13, 2006
Business Week Special Report: Young Entrepreneurs of Tech
How the Masses Will Innovate
interviewed by Stacy Perman



Interviewer: "Moving forward, what are the major areas in technology where academic institutions and venture capitalists will be channeling resources and investments?"

Moss: "The societal business model. Companies are now paying attention to some of the major socioeconomic problems in the First and the Third World. We have a billion people using computers in the First World. It is still limited to wealthier societies.

In the next 20 years we will see the adoption (increase) to 5 billion to 6 billion. And the kinds of killer apps that are important in that world are not those necessarily centered on communication and commerce.

I think as we experience the problem of aging populations we will need to supply different ways to educate, and traditional schools are not the way to go. We will see technology dramatically change the way kids learn. We will see health care without hospitals. That is where the action will be. Just another tweak to a telephone or a handheld device will happen, but it will not be a major source of growth. That is becoming a commodity."

Interviwer: "What new directions will you pursue as head of the Media Lab?"

Moss: "The Media Lab has done a lot to shape the world of technology. We will continue to develop and find brand-new areas. One is between humans and computers, and how the computer relates to people and expresses itself in ways it never has before. For instance, (this means) giving computers common sense and reasoning like people, not just crunching numbers, but having an emotional intelligence as well.

We will (help) to break barriers between a much broader adoption of technology and solutions to the problems facing society today.

We talk about how to make life more pleasant and fulfilling for the aging. We have drugs now that can increase people's lives until their 90s and 100. This is an untapped resource รข€“- the incredible wisdom and knowledge that resides in seniors' brains. We will develop ways to extend their capabilities with technology.

We will improve mental and cognitive abilities. It is esoteric, but think about the problem of aging. People tend to weaken physically as they age, but if we can expand their minds to contribute to society, it will greatly enhance the experience of aging."

Interviewer: "You talk about education and the bottom-up effect that millions more people will play in societal advances. How do you see this unfolding?"


Moss: "We will undergo another revolution when we give 100 million kids a smart cell phone or a low-cost laptop, and bootstrap the way they learn outside of school. We think of games as a way to kill time, but in the future I think it will be a major vehicle for learning.

Creative expression (is another area). No longer will just a few write or create music. We will see 100 million people creating the content and art shared among them. Easy-to-use programs allow kids to compose everything form ringtones to full-fledged operas. It will change the meaning of creative art in our society.

We are already seeing early signs of it in blogs. The source of creative content is coming from the world. That revolution will go well outside of the written word to all forms of visual and performing arts. "

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Cato Institute on Republican School Policy

At Conservative Forum on Bush, Everybody's a Critic
By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, March 8, 2006; A02

He [David Boez] blamed Bush for "a 48 percent increase in spending in just six years," a "federalization of public schools" and "the biggest entitlement since LBJ."


My, my - who knew? Could it be the fact that every State Department of Education recites chapter and verse NCLB Talking Points?

Um, let's see...

Is there a State Education administrator who has not said, "We have to raise expectations!" No they aren't talking about themselves thinking independently or freeing themselves of their Orwellian doublespeak, they're talking about the object of their disappointment, the students.

Cato's speakers goes on to say,

He began by predicting a big tax increase "to finance the inevitable growth of government that is in the pipeline that President Bush is largely responsible for." He also said many fellow conservatives don't know about the "quite dreadful" traits of the administration, such as the absence of "anybody who does any serious analysis" on policy issues.

Boaz assured the audience that he told the White House that "if there's a rebuttal to what Bruce has said, please come and provide it."

Instead, Sullivan was on hand to second the critique. "This is a big-government agenda," he said. "It is fueled by a new ideology, the ideology of Christian fundamentalism." The bearded pundit offered his own indictment of Bush: "complete contempt" for democratic processes, torture of detainees, ignoring habeas corpus and a "vast expansion of the federal government." The notion, he said, that the "Thatcher-Reagan legacy that many of us grew up to love and support would end this way is an astonishing paradox and a great tragedy."

The question period gave the two a chance to come up with new insults.

"If Bush were running today against Bill Clinton, I'd vote for Clinton," Bartlett served.

"You have to understand the people in this administration have no principles," Sullivan volleyed. "Any principles that get in the way of the electoral map have to be dispensed with."

Vote to get federal and State Departments of Education abolished. They are out-of-control and are wasting our time, money, patience, and good will. School policy has been federalized and for the worse. At least the blame is being accurately pin-pointed.

Free eBooks

This will become my free eBook links master list.

Here's a site that is beginning to get recognition on the Web. It has hundreds of titles, academic and otherwise.

Instructors working on Curriculum development should take note and save the schools and pupils money by taking advantage of online editions for at least part of their courses.

Project Gutenburg - Updated 06/15/06

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Close Encounter of the Seventh Kind?

Lord, what a great time to be studying science. Here's a mystery that includes biology, astronomy, genetics, language, all kinds of high level abstractions having to do with, well, aliens.

Red rain could prove that aliens have landed

by Amelia Gentleman and Robin McKie
Sunday March 5, 2006
The Observer

There is a small bottle containing a red fluid on a shelf in Sheffield University's microbiology laboratory. The liquid looks cloudy and uninteresting. Yet, if one group of scientists is correct, the phial contains the first samples of extraterrestrial life isolated by researchers.

Inside the bottle are samples left over from one of the strangest incidents in recent meteorological history. On 25 July, 2001, blood-red rain fell over the Kerala district of western India. And these rain bursts continued for the next two months. All along the coast it rained crimson, turning local people's clothes pink, burning leaves on trees and falling as scarlet sheets at some points.

Investigations suggested the rain was red because winds had swept up dust from Arabia and dumped it on Kerala. But Godfrey Louis, a physicist at Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam, after gathering samples left over from the rains, concluded this was nonsense. 'If you look at these particles under a microscope, you can see they are not dust, they have a clear biological appearance.' Instead Louis decided that the rain was made up of bacteria-like material that had been swept to Earth from a passing comet. In short, it rained aliens over India during the summer of 2001.



IMO, they have to be aliens. They were smart enough not to bother communicating with George Bush while he was in India - the "take me to your leader" cliche. But then again, most humans don't waste their time with that either. In any case, this should provoke some very interesting classroom discussions.

Here's what the levels of encounters can be.

myWoodstock - Many are called, few are chosen

Based on a NYTimes review that this link points to I took my sons to see Dave Chappelle's Block Party playing at the movies.

I'll let Manohla Dargis' description of the movie's premise introduce my commentary.

In "Dave Chappelle's Block Party," much of which unfolds over a single rainy day and night, Mr. Chappelle looks and sounds alternately ebullient and weary. It was directed by Michel Gondry, the madcap genius behind "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," but in its tone and vibe feels like Mr. Chappelle's all the way. The setup is blissfully simple: a free block party on a dead-end street in Bed-Stuy with a lineup of musicians, some of whom, like Kanye West and Mos Def, have put in appearances on "Chappelle's Show." The nominal idea, the comic explains on camera, was "the concert I've always wanted to see." The result, which ping-pongs between Brooklyn and Mr. Chappelle's hometown in Ohio, is a tantalizing sketch-portrait of the artist amid an outpouring of hard beats and soul.


I loved this film on many levels. I knew little or nothing about Dave Chappelle nor am I a fan of hip-hop per se. Just as Woodstock introduced a generation of musicians to the world, Dave Chappelle's micro Woodstock event introduces another. IMO, this film is as significant as the first Woodstock in content and meaning.

As a film, this is a post-modern masterpiece of cutting, sketch, vibe, biography, political exposure, and party. Chappelle holds his concert in front of a hippie couple's ruin of a home called 'Fallen Angel' somewhere in Bed-Stuy, the eternal American political poster community. The rich metaphors electrify the irony. Like an abandoned religious shrine it frames and magnifies the question of what happened to the civil rights movements, social justice, and peace. The answer is that they've been internalized and marginalized. Chappelle, megaphone in hand, tells us we'll never hear this on the radio just as no one heard him speaking in the megaphone.

Chappelle marches a marching band through Bed-Stuy with few or no eyebrows raised. It is as if Americans have all retreated inside. Chappelle is a cross between Richard Pryor and Charlie Chaplin and I hate to overuse the term but this film has the touch of genius in it.

The music is a revelation. Hip-hop oftens emphasizes bass sounds that sound awful when being blasted on buzzy, car boom boxes driven by misguided tough-guys. Hearing this music in the theatre, illuminates the wonderful backbeats of all of the bands and artists Chappelle invited to play. The quality of sound will amaze you. And the quality of the artists will also amaze you.

This is high quality art. All high school students who are mature enough to think for themselves should most definitely consider themselves invited. This movie's musical impact will not be the same unless run through a high quality music system. I recommend experiencing it in the theatre.

And let me add a final postscript;

This film drips with a humanity rarely seen in American films representing the black community. EVERY black person in this film is articulate, there is not a thug in the crowd, the children are clean, well fed, beautiful.

Bill Cosby should go see what the black community he criticizes so harshly looks like.

Reinvigorating Secondary Education

At our recent Board retreat, we talked about what we wanted EO Smith to become. The second article in this Orlando, FL link called, High Schools Could Focus On Credits - So long freshmen, hello first-year students under DOE-backed plan by Julia Crouse (The Ledger) examines some excellent ideas being enacted - that's right ENACTED (not just being paid lip-service) - that are excatly the kinds of changes we need in Connecticut.

Here's some of the changes;

ORLANDO -- Florida may do away with high school freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors.

In their place would be first-, second-, third- and fourth-year students if a new proposal for changing high school requirements passes through the Florida Legislature this spring.

The new format would eliminate promotion or retention. Students would be classified based on the number of credits earned, similar to the college system.

furthermore...
Twenty-four credits are still needed for a diploma, and the same number of classes are required.

But students will add a fourth year of math and concentrate half of their electives in a single subject area, or major.

Another shift is how schools classify students.

Students would be grouped based on how many credits they've earned, not the number of years in school -- something that's already being done in Polk, Tonjes said.

Students who haven't met diploma requirements by their fourth year will be able to remain in 12th grade until proficiency requirements for a diploma are met.

That's the best thing about the proposals, McKinzie said.

People are starting to understand that high school takes some students longer than four years, she said.

"It's not always a simple four year progression," she said.

Whether the changes will work depends on how DOE sets it up, she said.

They won't work if DOE officials rush into the decision without giving districts time to flesh out their programs for majors or add additional math courses, she said.

The legislation includes a new program called Academic All-Stars, a distinction of subject area expertise through a star system.

For example, a student who earns good grades in Spanish from eighth grade through 12th grade would get a fivestar distinction on his diploma. A student who did really well in English in 10th, 11th and 12th grade would have three stars.

Winn said the goal is not to stigmatize students who barely scrape by. Instead, it will make good grades a little more special for students.


We've discussed similar ideas by attempting to become an experimental high school in terms of curriculum and of creating a credentialed diploma that signified that the graduate had taken a rigorous courseload and be given the benefit of the doubt by a higher education institution that remedial courses were unnecessary.

But Florida's retro-visionary approach has a great deal of good stuff going for it. Students learn at their own pace and presumably test for mastery when they've mastered the subject instead of when an arbitrary class number is reached. Imagine that, the test being administered actually tests a student who is educationally prepared to be tested on something that he or she can prove they know. Godfrey Daniels! - that would produce a meaningful metric for the student, the school, the parent, the institute of higher education! - E-GADS it makes too much sense!

This is no small thing. Today in Connecticut teachers are forced to pressure all students to conform to set testing requirements, ready or not. This messes up students and it totallly screws up the educational process. Instead of teaching students who are educationally making similar progress, teachers try to force accelerated learning on learners who are incapable of acceleration and higher acheiving students dumb themselves down to meet the vanilla expectations (see here). It's all sugar-coated in phoney curriculum vocabularies and lots of finger-pointing that somebody else is to blame for Johnny not being able to do this or that.

And by eliminating class distinctions, much of the artificial pretense and pressure to conform to preconceived notions of high school self is eliminated. Students can take courses that they're comfortable with and in combinations that make sense for them (and not necessarily the State).

It also eliminates much of the sports silliness. Schools can run a Varsity and JV team for any given sport and offer a rec level for that sport that allows older students lacking in skills but with an abundance of enthusiasm to enjoy themselves.

Instead of visiting totalitarian regimes for ideas on education, the State DOE should be emulating Florida or, as Jonathan Winters once called it, "God's Waiting Room".

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Bullshit Human Capital Story (BHC)

In an opinion piece at TPMCafe called "IT'S WHO YOU KNOW, STUPID" by Max Sawicky, a recent Paul Krugman argument is analyzed.

This fallacy is that income or wage inequality results from an increasing "skill" differential. It's your own damn fault you don't make more money. You should have spent more time drilling calculus and less in all-night games of hearts followed by excursions to Dunkin Donuts. If you're worried about outsourcing, you're a weenie; real men are not afraid to compete in the new world economy.

I would label it the Bullshit Human Capital story (BHC). BHC was big in the Clinton Administration and lives on in the Gospels of Sperling (a.k.a. Gene Gene, Neo-Liberal Machine). The Clintons attributed the suffering we must endure from free trade to lack of investment in training and education, and they had the courage to actually devote several teaspoons of resources to look like they were fixing that problem.

In an important departure, Krugman says it's about Power. It's not that more education is not always better than less; of course it is, and more public support for education and training should be welcome. But BHC does not strike at the root of the problem, nor its solution. It's about who makes the rules of the game, including the labor market game. We are not living under meritocracy. Merit is substantially compromised by privilege.

Privilege derives from wealth, race, and gender. It biases decisions in college admissions, employment, housing, political appointments, and credit allocation. It reduces economic efficiency and growth because a biased decision entails waste of real resources.

The resulting elite is what PK calls an oligarchy.


On a related note, Average family income drops 2.3% by Sue Kirchhoff, USA TODAY

From 2001 to 2004, average family income fell 2.3%, to an inflation-adjusted $70,700 from $72,400 in the 1998-2001 period. By contrast, from 1998 to 2001, average income jumped 17.3%. Median income — the midpoint of the income range — rose 1.6% to $43,200.

Fed economists said the figures were "strongly influenced" by a more-than-6% drop in median real wages during the period. Also, investment income was less than in the stock market boom years of the late 1990s. (Related: Full report)

Real net worth — the difference between family assets and liabilities — rose only slightly from 2001 to 2004. Median net worth rose only 1.5% to $93,100 during the period, vs. a 10.3% gain from 1998 to 2001. And liabilities rose faster than assets, due largely to a big rise in mortgage debt.


As we discuss next year's budget, Certified salaries will jump approximately 4.0% as will benefits.

In the free market world people all over CT are losing their jobs, taking massive pay cuts and both losing and paying larger deductables for their benefit packages.

Just something to think about.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Generic Prescription Drug Prices

A friend of mine sent me this link. It's about a year old but it exposed yet another scandal that the administration keeps quiet. I certainly hope some media outlet in CT does a likewise investigation on generic drug markups.

What do generic drugs have to do with education? Plenty. Many CT families are hard hit by drug prices. This story exposes the practice.

Secondly, although as a Board of Ed member I can't always save as much on budget items as we hope to there's no reason you can't save money otherwise.

"...evidence that drug stores far and wide have been quietly pocketing the lion’s share of the savings when you buy generic drugs to save money over the high-priced brand names. Now, Steve has the results of an expanded investigation into the facts your druggist has been keeping secret.

These so-called "generic" drugs are just as safe and effective as the advertised brands, but they cost less. That’s because about 10 years after a new drug goes on the market, its patent expires and other drugmakers can simply copy it for pennies on the dollar. But here’s the problem: you buy the generics to save money, only in most cases, your druggist is pocketing most of the savings.

Let’s take the generic version of the popular anti-depressant Prozac. It’s called Fluoxetine and when we broke this story 18 months ago, some drugstores were selling a one-month supply for as high as $92, yet customers were happy to be saving $30 or so over what they’d have to pay for the brand-name Prozac—happy until Action News was first to expose what that $92 generic prescription actually cost the druggists.

Wilson to Gregory Papp/Heritage Sav-Mor Drugs: When I look at Fluoxetine...

Papp: That’s a toughie.

Wilson: ...the generic version of Prozac...

Papp: That’s a toughie.

Wilson: It’s a toughie because you pay $2.16 and you sell it for $92 dollars!

Papp: Yeah. "


and...

"WHERE IS THE BEST PRICE?
Meanwhile, who remains the undisputed champ in generic drug pricing? It’s still Costco, the warehouse store where you don’t need to be a member to get your prescriptions filled at rock-bottom prices."


This may have changed (and this story originates from Detroit) but it's certainly worth your while to check.

Cartoons (click to site of ownership):